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September 27, 2005

Just about everyone who is involved with civic activities in New Castle County turned out to begin the process of drafting what will be, depending upon how you define things, an updated, revised or new county comprehensive plan. If the interest holds and the process goes as planned, the direction that growth takes in the next seven years and beyond will be largely charted by a cross-section of people and interest.

State law requires that all political subdivisions have plans and that they be reviewed and, as necessary, modified every five years. New Castle County's modifications are due in 2007. Although the law also requires citizen participation, the extent to which that makes a difference can vary widely.

County Executive Chris Coons has directed that that be to the maximum extent possible. He and his administration want to make sure the final product "effectively reflects all the needs and concerns in our county," he told about 125 attenders at the dinner meeting in the new Rockwood Mansion Park visitors and conference center Sept. 26.

"Two often people feel they don't have a voice in the process," said Paul Clark, president of County Council. As a result, "no one is happy with the land use process."

Needs and concerns obviously differ widely among, say, folks who live Claymont, Pike Creek and Middletown. They will be aired, debated and, the more optimistic among us think, resolved in a series of monthly meetings of four subcommittees. If. as the more realistic expect, consensus doesn't happen, land use general manager Charles Baker said the subcommittees will be expected to produce majority and minority reports. Areas to be addressed are: future land use, infrastructure and services, community character, and the development and building review. CLICK HERE to read the previous Delaforum article.

To illustrate the kinds of issues with which the subcommittees will have to deal, consider just one set of data from Baker's talk. The Delaware Population Consortium, he said, expects that, by 2030, the county will have 79,000 more people in 41,000 new households. But between now and then there will be only 9,000 new jobs generated. Right now, he said, the county has about 141,900 residentially zoned acres, out of a total of 218,700 acres, undeveloped. The situation is tighter with commercially zoned land. There are only 12,700 of a total of 34,000 undeveloped.

The discussion going forward will be interesting. As Coons put it: "Land use is one thing we do to keep people excited."

Proposing to engage a consultant to study special education in the Brandywine School District was favorably received by the school board,  but hiring an administrator to oversee that area was not.  MORE

An effort is underway to further encourage redevelopment of unused or underused properties through another modification of the county's Unified Development Code.  MORE  

Waste Management has a painless way of dealing with rising fuel costs: Tack a $6.44 "fuel/environmental charge" onto the regular trash-collection rate. It makes no sense to charge an increased cost of doing business against the bottom line when it can be otherwise absorbed without raising prices.

2005. All rights reserved.

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